Hell is empty and all the devils are here

“Dad, please give me the box,” the woman begged me. “You really shouldn’t have it.”

“Ma’am, I promise you have the wrong person,” I answered, panicking. “I don’t know who your dad is, but I’m not him.”

At least, as far as I was aware, the nineteen-year-old me — with my awkward lankiness and my I-tried-to-save-money-by-cutting-my-own-hair haircut — hadn’t been sleeping around with any girls and certainly couldn’t be the father of a thirty-year-old woman. But the lady had such an urgent look on her face as she wildly waved her arms that even I was confused: maybe she did have an eerily similar face as mine…

***

All I’d wanted to do was catch the final train of the day from Boston to New York. Or rather, I was sent to deliver a large box from one of my closest friend to his uncle. It wasn’t a terribly large box; he’d just wanted to send some medicine and pills over to a sick family member, but because of conflicts in his work schedule, I volunteered to go instead. Covered in golden swirls, the box could easily be held in one hand, and a quick shake revealed that it likely was just a few pills in the box.

Yet as I purchased the ticket, I noticed a strangely dressed woman following me; she was easy to spot, with her bizarre hat and a huge map tucked underneath her arm. She cast several strange glances at me, so I stood as far away from her as I could. It was already nine by the time the train arrived, and the platform was almost empty, save for a few stragglers here and there. I decided to go to the last car, but as the train bells began to ring, I saw her running frantically towards my car, jumping in just as the doors began to close.

And then it was quiet, just the two of us staring at each other. I looked back down at the box. A shadow appeared before me, and I looked up to see the woman standing right in front me. I could see her clearly now: her choice of outfit, which seemed to be silver trash bag, was strange, and her rainbow-sprinkled top hat — which she couldn’t seem to stop twirling around –matched her rainbow-spotted heels.

“Ahh, Richa–, I mean, Dr. Worce–, uh, gosh, they really shouldn’t have sent me, but yeah, hey Dad,” the woman stuttered. “I–, could you hand me the box?”

“What?” I asked, clutching the small box closer to my chest. “What’s all this about dad’s and Drs. and boxes?”

***

“You have to hand me the box,” the woman said. “I’m Vanessa. They sent me to come get the back –which I really don’t understand why, since I’m not well trained in time-traveling and I talk to much when I’m scared and nervous and that, they say, I get from you, but –”

I stood up.

“Alright,” I said. “A) I most certainly do not ramble like you do when I get nervous or scared, and as you can see right now I’m definitely not nervous or scared or talking too much. B) Time-traveling does not exist. C) I’m Richard, and I’m 19 and not old enough to have a grown-up child. D) What’s in this box does not concern you.”

The train had begun slowing down as it entered one of the smaller stops along the way. As it lurched to a stop, Vanessa began turning her hat this way and that, muttering under her breath.

“You don’t understand. This concerns the fate of our world, of humanity, and what you have in your hands could destroy our future, which is why you should give it to me.”

“Perhaps Vanessa, you mean to say, ‘Which is why you should not give it to me,” a booming voice echoed throughout our car. A tall man strolled in, glaring at Vanessa. The two looked no more than five years apart, and as each eyed the other closely, I realized something else: both had the same birthmark on their arm. It was the same one I had on mine.

“Well, Dad, good to finally be able to meet  you,” he said to me. “Though I suggest you take the box and run for your life.”

With that, he pushed me out of the car as Vanessa lunged towards me, her skin slowly melting into her silver trash-bag dress. I tumbled onto the platform as the train began to pull away, with the man and Vanessa-turned-silver-robot shooting at each other between the aisles. Panting, I looked at the small golden box I held in my hands.

Just the hell was going on, and what exactly was in this little box?

 

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